Bilingualism means being able to use two or more languages. Raising bilingual children has lots of benefits – for example, it can help to create strong family and cultural bonds. But there are challenges too – for example, raising bilingual children is a long-term commitment and can be a lot of work.
Benefits of bilingualism
Bilingualism and raising bilingual children is good not only for your children, but also for your family and your community.
For your child, speaking more than one language easily is linked to:
For your family, bilingualism and developing your native language in your children:
For your wider community, when children speak more than two languages, it means that:
Possible challenges of bilingualism
Raising bilingual children does have its challenges. It can sometimes mean a lot of work, and it’s a long-term commitment.
When you’re raising bilingual children, you need to:
If you sometimes feel like these challenges are too hard, it might help to think about the benefits of bilingualism – especially the way it can help you and your children develop stronger family bonds.
Bilingualism: frequently asked questions
Can children understand the differences between languages?
Children can understand the difference between languages at a young age and learn two or more languages at the same time. For example, they realise very quickly that they need to speak Mandarin to Grandma, and English to the teacher.
How does bilingualism affect the way children learn English?
A good knowledge of your native language can actually help your child with learning the language of the wider community – for example, English in Singapore.
Bilingual children who have a solid foundation in their native language learn the majority language more easily and do better at school than children who aren’t learning their native language at home. For example, children who are familiar with books and stories in first languages find it easier to learn to read and write in English when they get to school.
How does bilingualism affect literacy skills?
Bilingual children who are exposed to two different written languages – for example, Mandarin and English – or even two different writing systems – for example, Mandarin and English – can read and write English at high levels. They might also have a better understanding of the relationship between how words look and sound than their peers who speak English only.
How does bilingualism affect speech development?
Bilingual children develop language at the same rate as children who speak one language only. Children learn to speak at different rates, but this isn’t because of learning more than one language at the same time.
Speaking of Children II: Dr Mukhlis on Strategies for Raising a Bilingual Child
In this video, Dr. Mukhlis explains how to go about raising a bilingual child. His advice: encouragement and consistent exposure to both languages! Watch on to find out more.
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